First Question Answered
James B. Pond, Eccentricities of Genius, New York: G. W. Dillingham Company, 1900
INTRODUCTION: FIRST QUESTION ANSWERED
My friends often ask how I got into the Lyceum business. I drifted into it, the same as most people do who have to find some place for which they are fitted, or try to. It was my fortune to be raised on the frontier. My father was one of the pioneers of Wisconsin. He was an abolitionist. The Bible and the New York "Trybune," not Tribune, were almost synonymous in our family, and about the only library we had.
Wisconsin was a sort of refuge for the fugitive slave, and my father kept an underground station. Many a night I have slept out on the prairie with some runaway slaves, with father and the neighbors protecting them against the United States marshal. I found myself, when eighteen years of age, carrying a Sharp's rifle in 1856 with John Brown, in Kansas.
I was between thirteen and fourteen when, after my father had given me a severe drubbing for telling a lie, which was not a lie, I ran away.
Then I was in Fond du Lac. I remember the wooden sidewalks, and seeing boys wearing shoes in the summer time. How I pitied them; I thought it dreadful! I was looking at the wonder scenes, gazing with intense interest into the shop windows. All of a sudden I heard a noise in a shop. I looked in. It was a printing office. It was so wonderful I ventured to step inside the door. Just then the man working the press (who proved to be the foreman) said to me, "Well, what do you want?"
I replied, "Nothing," and stepped back.
He said, "Don't you want to learn the trade?"
"Don't know, sir."
"Don't you want to be a printer's devil?"
At that I was still more frightened. He said:
"You see the editor in that sanctum--" Just then a man came to the door from the adjoining room and spoke very gently to me. I never forgot that.
He said, "I want an apprentice to learn the printer's trade. Would you like to try? I will give you $25 for the first year, $30 for the second, and $50 for the third." I agreed.
"You go in there and roll that press," said the foreman.
It seems the regular "devil" had had an altercation with the foreman and left, and one of the journeyman printers was rolling a handbill, while a man outside with his sulky and horse was waiting for it, and that poster I can always recall. It was a rude cut of a stallion, with black letter announcements relating thereto. The beautiful clean white paper and the glossy black ink startled me. I never got over it. I have been using black ink and white paper ever since.
To make a long story short, I was behind that press and covered with printer's ink in a very few minutes. After the handbill was printed, the foreman lifted the form, called me to his side of the press, and said:
"Take this form to that sink and wash it."
I started, and right in front of the sink it seems a little of the lye had accumulated and the floor was slippery. I slipped and down I went. The chase went over my head and the type flew in all directions. The foreman said:
"There! by thunder, you leave!"
The editor stepped out of the sanctum and said,
"What's the matter?"
"He's pied that form," replied the foreman.
"Did you show him how to wash it?" asked the editor.
"He leaves, or I do," said the foreman.
"You can leave if you want," said the editor.
Probably the reader can imagine my feelings at having such a friend to take my part.
So the foreman left, and I did the best I could, picking up the type until it was about time to quit, when the editor told me to come with him to his house.
I went there and looked in; at first I did not dare enter. There was the first upholstered furniture I had ever seen, a white tablecloth, glass tumblers and napkins--such things I had never seen. There were figures on the carpet. Two beautifully dressed ladies came downstairs and took seats at the table directly opposite me. I must have turned crimson. I was completely dazed by their beauty and so embarrassed I must have betrayed my feelings. I was glad my feet were under the table, for I was barefooted. I went through some motions, but ate no supper. Next morning I was to be at the office, open it, and have it swept by seven o'clock. I had the key in my pocket and it fairly burned there, so anxious was I to be at my new work and to turn that key in the lock.
I was at the office before six to sweep it out. I hunted around and found a broom and began sweeping everything toward the door. I swept the sanctum, a corner partitioned off from the main room of the printing office. I dared not pick up the loose exchanges lying on the floor, but swept around them, and had almost a winrow of dirt moved up to the door, amid clouds of dust, when Walker Rouse, the elder apprentice, came in and exclaimed:
"Whew, what a dust! Why, you haven't sprinkled before sweeping!"
I did not know what he meant until he got the sprinkling pot and showed me how to sprinkle the floor, and then how to dust the bank and cases and the editor's sanctum, pick up and fold the exchanges, and tidy up his desk. All this Walker showed me how to do by doing it for me. At seven o'clock the printers came around. The editor came in at eight.
"Boy," he said, "what is your name?"
"James, your office is looking fine. You are beginning well."
And so it has been going ever since. I think I have had credit a great many times for what somebody else has done.
The Fountain City Herald survived but a few months. I went from Fond du Lac to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where I obtained work on the Oshkosh Democrat, served my time as an apprentice, and then went to Madison, Wisconsin, and worked as a journeyman. In the summer of 1856, with Charles G. Finney, Jr. (son of the president of Oberlin College), I found myself in Kansas, working on The Herald of Freedom, at Lawrence; a little later carrying a Sharp's rifle ("Beecher Bible") with old John Brown. In the fall I went to St. Louis, to work during the winter. Then back to Wisconsin.
In 1873, after the war and emancipation of the slaves, I found myself associated with the first gentile paper in Utah--The Salt Lake Tribune. About that time the railroad had reached Zion, and there was a tremendous influx of gentiles. We had territorial officers who could not be used by the Mormons, and there was considerable excitement. President Brigham Young and several Mormon leaders and several Mormon leaders were put under arrest. There were so many gentiles that they could not possibly find accommodations at the hotels, and Brigham Young proclaimed to his people that they could open their houses and receive them as boarders, and that a fair price for their board--not exorbitant, but a fair price--should be charged. He thought three dollars a week a good price for board. He admonished his people that they must not forget that they were all missionaries.
It happened that a Methodist minister (the Rev. C. C. Stratton) and his wife obtained board with Ann Eliza Young, then Brigham Young's last and nineteenth wife, who was keeping house by herself in a small cottage, not far from the Lion House. Ann Eliza was born in Mormonism and reared in Utah by her mother, who was an educated woman and one of the first converts of Joseph Smith, living in Nauvoo, Ill., for several years before they migrated to Utah. Ann Eliza was a very intelligent woman, but her whole life was circumscribed by Mormonism. She had never attended any other church, and never read any other literature than Mormon books. She was a conscientious woman. It was through this Methodist minister and his wife that she apostatized.
One evening it was arranged that Ann Eliza should tell her story to the guests of the hotel (the Walker House), where she had taken refuge under the protection of the officials of the territory--Governor Woods and Chief Justice McKean, who lived there. I was there also and had something to do with making the arrangements. She did give her story--the most interesting and thrilling story that anybody ever heard. That speech was telegraphed to the Associated Press, and the next day came telegrams from all parts of the country. One was from P. T. Barnum and another from James Redpath, the owner of the Lyceum Bureau, in Boston, whom I had met and known in Kansas in 1856. It asked her to lecture.
Our people decided that if Ann Eliza could tell that story in Washington, we could get some attention and legislation. Up to that time we had been able to get little attention and no legislation. I happened to be available and went to Washington with her. I made a proposition that if she would go on a lecture tour I would manage it. She accepted it. That's where I first became a manager.
Although she was to speak first in Washington, they were determined to hear her in Laramie and Denver en route. I got the schoolroom in Laramie, charged $1.50 a ticket, and sold four hundred tickets, and took in $600 that evening. Next, in Denver, she spoke in the New Baptist Church, the largest auditorium in the city at that time. I remember the night she was to appear in Denver I went to the Inter-Ocean Hotel where she boarded, to escort her to the church, and did not know her. She was dressed up, and--well, she looked very pretty. The leading Methodist minister--she had been converted by a Methodist, and they claimed her--introduced her to one of the largest audiences ever assembled in Denver.
Armed with letters of introduction to Speaker James G. Blaine, President U. S. Grant, and many members of Congress, we reached Washington, where we got into the Speaker's room and she sent her card to Speaker Blaine. He was in the speaker's chair. He came out and shook hands with her and was half tempted to be a little bit funny and jocose, but he discovered at once that she was a lady, a woman with a cause, and an earnest one, and in a moment his attention was riveted. He did not go back to his chair but sent word to somebody else to take his place, and in a few minutes somebody else came into the speaker's room, and in not over twenty minutes that room was packed with members of Congress. There was a stampede on the floor, and she held an ovation for two hours. Everybody wanted to see and hear her. Two days after that she did tell her story in Washington. Forty-eight hours later the Poland bill for the relief of the oppressed in Utah was a law.
I will say now that in all my experience I have never found so eloquent, so interesting, so earnest a talker. I have heard a great many, too. She had a cause. She was in dead earnest. She could sway audiences with her eloquence. She was able in two years from that time to leave Utah with her children and her family, and she never returned.
I took a desk in Mr. Redpath's office in Boston and booked Mrs. Young's time in New England and the Eastern States, while, with an Eastern lady as chaperone, she traveled and lectured nightly to as large audiences as were being drawn by the most popular lecturers of that period, such as Gough, Phillips, Anna Dickinson, and Mary A. Livermore. At the end of the season she had earned over $20,000.
I have frequently visited Utah on tours with some of my celebrities, and have found amongst the Mormon people as intelligent and interested listeners as are to be found in any other part of the United States. I do not believe there is a more critical or appreciative public in America. From the time of my first visit to Utah I have known and respected the Mormon people, and some of the best friends I now have are among them. I have always made it a rule to make special terms and prices for that public because of its universal intelligence and appreciation.
In the spring of 1899, it was my privilege to place F. Marion Crawford with the Brigham Young Normal College at Provo, where I found over six hundred young men and maidens studying to become teachers and missionaries for the Mormon church. The president of that college, Mr. Cluff, I had known when a boy living near the spot where the college now stands. His uncle, David Cluff, was a customer of mine in 1868. He kept a furniture store and was undertaker for the town of Provo. He had three wives living under the same roof. Over his store he had an assembly hall where the young people gathered for dancing, theatricals, and other amusements. I attended one of these dances while a guest of Mr. Cluff and was introduced to his wives and several of his children, a cousin of whom is now president of this great collegiate institution. Mr. Cluff, senior, had come originally from Vermont. His first wife was also a New England girl. I think that I was the only gentile in Provo that night. I had driven forty miles by team from Salt Lake City the day before. I was made to feel perfectly at home in this Mormon family and met with all the comforts of a home that reminded me of the old-time pioneer households in Western New York and Wisconsin. When the party assembled in the ball room, before the music started--the band was made up entirely of members of the Cluff family--Mr. Cluff opened the proceedings with prayer, as is the custom on all public occasions among the Mormons.
One of the faculty of the Brigham Young College, a lady, is Mrs. Susa Young Gates, a daughter of Lucy and Brigham Young, one of the most prominent women in Utah and editor of The Young Woman's Journal of that State. I had never met Mrs. Gates until on this occasion, but she has been one of my correspondents in Utah for a number of years. She is well known as one of the leaders among women, and is identified with all the discussions and movements for their progress in the United States. I had thought favorably of trying to induce her to come East and lecture to women's clubs and associations. When he met, naturally the memory of Ann Eliza, who was my first star, was still green in this community, and she gently took me to task for having been opposed to her people and religion. To show that Ann Eliza had inflicted an injury to the cause and faith she believed in and followed, I submit the following extract from a letter Mrs. Gates wrote to me while I was in California with Mr. Crawford, shortly after leaving her:
"Major Pond--I like the frank and manly way in which you speak of the unfortunate past and of your wish to help my people in the future. I applied to you simply as the greatest manager on earth; and perhaps had resolved that all transactions should be kept on the strictest impersonal and business basis. But I became convinced after a few conversations with you that you had played an unwitting part in the great harm that Ann Eliza did my father and the whole people. I have been closely observing you, Major, while you were studying me. And I understand how with your generous and chivalrous disposition you could champion the cause on one you esteemed at that time to be an oppressed woman. But Ann Eliza was untruthful. She was a jealous and unscrupulous woman! God forgive her and let Him deal with her. I have no bitterness in my heart for her. I love my religion too well to hold enmity to any one, however wilful and wicked they may be. My dear father was one of the purest and most unselfish of men as well as one of the greatest; and you, Major, who are such a lover of heroes, would revere my father more and more if you would study him more. Yes, I accept in good faith your candid offer, and will let God and the future prove if a Mormon's friendship is not as high and noble as that of any one on earth. My husband was very favorably impressed with your whole-hearted generous praise of all that you saw, and he stands with me in this offer to 'smoke the pipe of peace.'"
It was while engaged in the Redpath Bureau in Boston, booking Ann Eliza's time, that I became enamored of the business, and a year later, with Mr. George H. Hathaway, chief clerk of the bureau, bought out James Redpath and assumed the management of that fine business. After four year's most pleasant partnership, Mr. Hathaway and I separated, he retaining the Redpath Lyceum Bureau and its good name, and I moved to New York and established a bureau of my own, put my sign in the window, where it has remained twenty-two years and will probably stay as long as I care to work.
I have endeavored to tell of the famous men and women, who have been lyceum favorites, that I have known and managed since I began with Mr. Hathaway in Boston in March, 1875, and most of whom it has been my pleasure to call my friends.
Since I started out as a journeyman printer in 1856, I have realized that the best and most useful advice ever given to me was that of my employer whom I was about to leave. In bidding me good-by, he said: "Now, Jim, you are starting from this minute out into the world to look after yourself. Let me give you some advice. Always associate with people from whom you can learn something useful. The greater a man is, the easier he is of approach. You can choose your companions from among the very best, and a man is always known by the company he keeps. It is much easier to ride than to carry a load."
This advice I never forgot. It was worth more to me than any I ever had. It has helped me always when I set out to try to secure some celebrity, and it has invariably proved true. I have never felt the slightest hesitancy in approaching any famous man or woman, and it never took long to ascertain whether the man was a gentleman or the woman a lady.
In preparing this book I have told of the people as I knew them, and have avoided any attempt to over-estimate or belittle their genuine characters.